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MPs to discuss boycott of weekly parliament session

Bahrain News
Sat, 13 Jan 2018
By Mohammed Al A’Ali

MPs will hold a closed meeting tomorrow to discuss whether to attend Tuesday’s weekly parliament session.

It follows calls to boycott parliamentary debates in protest against the government’s shock decision to raise petrol prices on Monday.

Parliament chairman Ahmed Al Mulla’s office yesterday issued the schedule for the session as normal containing the same topics postponed from last week – when MPs stormed out of the chamber over the price increase.

That was only after all 30 MPs present voted against the new fees.

The decision to raise fuel prices is part of a broader austerity drive that has seen power, water, meat and fuel subsidies reduced since 2015.

The GDN reported yesterday that further subsidy restructuring will be the focus of upcoming talks between MPs and the government.

MPs want to exclude all foreigners and wealthy Bahrainis from government subsidies – meaning more than half the country faces the prospect of a surge in fuel, power, water and flour prices.

Bahrain budgeted to spend a total of BD621 million on subsidies last year and another BD545m this year.

In addition to subsidies, Bahrain spent BD382.5m last year on social welfare programmes.

However, authorities are looking to shake up the subsidy system to reduce government spending, balance the budget and tackle rising public debt.

National Consensus Bloc member MP Dr Isa Turki said he had been informed that despite forthcoming subsidy negotiations, the petrol price increase would not be reversed.

“The government doesn’t want to back down from its sudden decision to increase the price of petrol and we believe there is nothing more important than that, so debating other issues on the schedule means saying goodbye to the public’s case,” he added.

“We have called all of parliament’s five blocs and independent MPs to a co-ordination meeting and some have told us they would wait for a decision in a legal case challenging the price increase filed by six lawyers, but that case doesn’t even have a court date scheduled.

“Monday’s petrol price increase is not up for debate by a National Assembly joint subsidy committee, which still remains a mystery (despite being announced last week).

“Sources have confirmed any debate would focus on removing subsidies and introducing higher prices in stages, while varying payments would be made to Bahrainis depending on the subsidy.

“But nothing about the (petrol price) issue that has angered people.”

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